A recent Reuters Events whitepaper outlining the digital journeys of key petrochemical companies makes interesting reading. It contains various insights on the challenges faced when implementing digitalization strategies. Just consider the following quotes:
“You have to get the troops to buy into it. The troops must see the value and not see it as one more thing they’ve got to do. They’ve got to see it as a solution that is actually going to make their job easier.”
Colin Xander, Executive Turnaround Director at Chevron Phillips Chemical, on what is required to roll out a new technology such as digitalization.
“I’ve seen the maintenance technician that does not even have a computer at his house and still has a flip phone in his pocket. And you give him an iPad or a tablet and tell him: ‘This is how you’re going to work from here on out.’ And he looks at you like you’re from another planet.”
Andy Lewis, Senior Technology Director, Dow.
“Culture is the old guys who don’t need a map; they know where to go. They have the mindset that we’ve been doing maintenance for decades and we do it right; we don’t need software, we don’t need anything, just leave us alone. Just give us a wrench and we’ll go do the maintenance.”
Paul Muir, President Mobideo North America, on the challenge of work culture when introducing digitalization.
Technophobia and digital phobia are fundamental challenges
The fast-paced development of the digital world has also contributed to a digital divide. Large segments of populations face significant challenges - because of lack of education, lack of interest and lack of access to digital devices – that exclude them from the technological world and leave them fearful of its growing omnipresence. This, in turn, has generated technophobia and digital phobia; phrases being used to describe a reluctance to become fully immersed in new technologies and the digital age, because of a fear of how they may negatively change everyday life.
This lack of celebration of hi-tech advancements has been around from the start of innovation. It relates to our ability and preparedness to change. In research conducted by Pew Research Center on the future of technology in 2014, 30% of Americans surveyed feared that technological changes would lead to a future in which people are worse off than they are at the time of being surveyed.
Accept and address personal emotions and work culture
From our experience in Mobideo, one of the first steps in any digitalization program is to accept and address existing personal emotions and work culture. That means accepting the facts about many industrial workers and contractors, such as:
They are either aging or changing, and are not necessarily IT-oriented or easily accepting of change.
They may be technologically challenged and not know how to use a lot of the apps that many take for granted today.
They may fear an intrusion of their privacy, exposure of their confidential information, and identity theft and fraud.
They may not be prepared to use their personal devices – such as smartphones and tablets – for work purposes.
They may not want to report their activities as they perform them, or fear the use of an application that measures their performance and the time they require to complete tasks.
From my experience, combatting of this mindset and increasing acceptance of new technologies and digitalization requires innovative approaches to education and training. It demands an understanding of the big picture and the specific idiosyncrasies of the organization, industry and people involved in order to succeed.
Think seriously about how to approach education and training
Digitalization does not occur overnight. It’s an ongoing process. The following are some key pointers that I believe should always be kept in mind for any education and training program on digitalization:
Show What’s in It for Them: Take the time to show the value of the technology being implemented. For example, consider demonstrating how digital tasks offer benefits to both workers and the organization. For workers, they can provide faster access to more information; eliminate the need to complete a bunch of paperwork after a long shift; and ensure that they receive approval of a discovery within minutes, instead of waiting hours or days for a response. In short, they will make their lives and work easier, as well as provide a positive user experience. Include the logic of the work process and the flow of data in the explanation.
Relate to the Experiences of Others: Participants need to hear from the experiences – both positive and negative - of others like them, who speak the same language and face the same challenges. For example, consider explaining about how digitalized tasks and sign-offs make work much easier to execute and complete, and provide actual examples from the field.
Learn and Identify Your Participants: The success of any training requires an understanding of the participants. This includes the ability to identify “champions” who understand the potential of the solution and will serve as messengers of change in the long-run. Naturally, such champions must be coordinated with the management of the company and even be incentivized, when necessary.
Use Questions and Personal Use Cases: Participants have to relate to the topics they are learning. Explaining the benefits and showing different use cases is only a partial solution, and having them share personal experiences always adds to the success of the training. For example, ask participants about personal challenges in their work or, before presenting a specific process or system functionality, ask them how they perform it today. Then integrate and relate to their responses in your explanations. In this way, participants feel part of the process and are more willing to learn.
Think Carefully About the Trainer: It is of utmost importance that trainers are suitable for the trainees, and that they are appropriately respected and appreciated. Also be aware that while coordination between trainers and SMEs is critical, it can be very difficult to achieve. Trainers have to be trained in advance to speak the language of their participants, and use accepted, uniform terminologies of the industry and organization.
Use Appropriate Tools: Use training tools suitable for the participants, from videos and print manuals to cheat sheets and quizzes. Always run training evaluations and surveys to learn and improve your training offering.
When will digital phobia be a thing of the past?
Never, really. I think it’s going to be a continuous challenge, as each new generation of workers face the implementation of new technologies. At Mobideo, we accompany our customers on their digitalization journeys with a range of services, from advising, training, and guiding in-house personnel to planning and recruiting appropriate personnel. Contact us now for more information.